Napa Girls Weekend

Napa Vacation Photographer Sneak Peek | Napa Girls Weekend | Sonoma

When a group of Texas girls emailed me and invited me to be their Napa vacation photographer for a day of wine tasting in the Sonoma, Napa and Russian River area, I did backflips.  They like wine; I like wine.  They’re from Texas; I’m from Texas.  They need a photographer; I am a photographer.  Match made in heaven?  I think so.

Here’s a sneak peek from our unbelievably awesome day visiting wineries.  I can’t wait to share more photos and stories from their Napa Girls’ Weekend: these girls know how to do vacation right.

wine country weddings, amador county wedding, plymouth wedding photographer, sierra foothills wine country weddings, sierra gold wedding photographer

Amador Wine Country Wedding Photographer | Rancho Cicada Retreat | Rebeca + Ryan

Rebeca and Ryan went to prom together.

True story.

Her sister introduced them.

For years after high school, they remained confidants, friends and travelers together until one day, they realized they were in love and began to date. They are both kind, adventurous, loving spirits who wanted the feeling and focus of their special day to remain on their friends and loved ones who had joined them.   When they originally contacted me about photographing their wedding, they sent a wonderful email which said they thought I was just the person to capture their event in an organic, natural way.

The wedding was a three day event at Rancho Cicada Retreat in the Amador County wine country, in Plymouth, CA.  Rancho Cicada Retreat is unbelievably stunning and feels a bit like being at summer camp.  With lush lawns, overhanging trees, a babbling brook and all their friends camping onsite, the event was exactly what they intended it to be: exceedingly comfortable, rustic, simple and sweet.

Rebeca and Ryan were the first clients to book me for the 2014 summer and as such, they contracted me to be their Amador Wine Country wedding photographer before I found out that their wedding was on the same day that two of my closest friends in Austin, Tx were set to wed.  I was a bit sad to miss my friends’ wedding, but when I arrived at Rebeca and Ryan’s wedding, I completely forgot that I was missing out because I felt so at home with them.   They encouraged me to stay and party with them after my contracted time was up and that I did: we had an epic dance party until the stroke of midnight.  “Are you really the wedding photographer!?!” one of the guests asked incredulously.  She didn’t believe Rebeca when she told her.  “My wedding photographer left the second her time was up!”

Well, I’m not that kind of photographer. I think that’s why Rebeca, Ryan and I fit so well together.  They are the most wonderful people: inspiring in both their love for each other, their mutual thirst for travel and adventure, and their exceptional taste in music.

Thank you Rebeca and Ryan for sharing your wine country wedding with me.

If you are looking to book your own Amador Wine Country Wedding in Northern, CA and want a private venue with tons of space and places for your friends to camp onsite, you should consider Rancho Cicada Retreat.  I loved it so much that I would like my own excuse to throw a private party there!  It’s secluded, off the beaten path, relaxing and private with enough camping space to host all of your friends for an entire fun-filled wine country weekend.

Venue:  Rancho Cicada Retreat | Catering: Chuck Collison | Bakery: Freeport Bakery | Flowers: Arranged by a friend of the bride, purchased from the Pheng Family Farm at the Sacramento Farmers Market

_DSC1873

Wine Tasting in Amador County

What’s better than a weekend wine getaway at friend’s ranch in the Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend?

The answer: a weekend wine getaway at a friend’s ranch in Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend where we have an adult Easter Egg Hung and roast a lamb.

Pleasantly warm temperatures, abundant sunshine, good friends and a lot of wine equal quite possibly the best weekend ever.  Add some charcuterie and cheese plates to the mix and the whole weekend becomes as delectable as burrata on toast.

Want your own Amador County wine weekend?

STAY:

PLAY:

  • The roads in Amador County are perfect for road biking so bring your bikes along and tour the wineries in the best way possible.  There is a limited amount of road routes available at this site, but from what I can tell, most of the roads we were on, including the main highways, would be amazing to ride on.

EAT:

  • Taste has a rotating menu of seasonal ingredients and you can get an appetizer and beverage pairing for $13 at Thirteen Dollar Thursdays at the Wine Bar.
  • Andrae’s Bakery is heaven from the tables of cookbooks outside the door to the breads, pastries and sweets that line the glass counter inside.  Make sure you pick up some of their specialty sea salts while you’re there.  The Mediterranean Blend is great to coat on grilled fish, chicken or veggies and the Durango Hickory Smoked Sea Salt can’t be beat for steaks and burgers.

DRINK:

  • Holly’s Hill is my most favorite winery of all time. It’s not on the fastest road to Amador, but you should totally take the long way to Plymouth and Sutter Creek vie El Dorado County and stop into Holly’s Hill. Their staff is unbeatable and their grounds are gorgeous.  Nearby Madroña Vineyards is also always a clear winner.  I love their zinfandel.
  • Helwig has beautiful grounds with an amazing outdoor amphitheater.  Large groups can reserve the private tasting room for a true tour of what Helwig has to offer.  Check out their summer concert series schedule – buy a bottle (or three) of wine and take a picnic to enjoy the summer nights.
  • Cooper Vineyards is a favorite.   The owner, the grounds and the atmosphere are relaxed and unpretentious.   Locals love to visit on the nights they host their “Old-Timers’ Music Jam.”
  • Turley is one of my most favorite wineries of all time.  I can still remember the first time I ever took a sip of their wine.   Their wine is hard to come by and a must order when I find it on restaurant wine lists.  The tasting room is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM.
TCoCmapwrap-2194

Wine Tasting in Tahoe South

Whether I’m in the need of an after work respite for happy hour or on vacation, a glass of wine always makes me sublimely happy.   Luckily, Tahoe South has plenty of options for those seeking an afternoon wine tasting, any day of the week!

Jimmy’s at The Landing

Recently opened Jimmy’s Restaurant is one of my favorite new Tahoe South dining locations.  Thanks to their staff’s exceptional attention to detail, their inventive California inspired menu from Chef Maria Elia featuring locally sourced fresh ingredients, and an extensive wine list, I am already a frequent diner.  Now that Jimmy’s is offering a complimentary nightly wine tasting every day of the week from 4:30-5:30, you may be able to find me here every night!

Show up to the bar at Jimmy’s and be led by their staff through a daily discovery of wines from their extensive and impressive hand selected cellar of more than 2,000 bottles from over 250 producers.  Then, stay and order one of Maria Elia’s delectable small plates.  My personal favorites are the Wood Grilled Octopus, the Roasted Beet and Apple Salad, and the Kataifi Wrapped Feta.

 

968 Park Hotel

968 Park Hotel offers guests and locals complimentary wine tasting, hosted by local Sierra Nevada foothill wineries every Friday night in the Coffeepub.  Upcoming participating vineyards include Madrona Vineyards, Lava Cap WineryBumgarner Winery, and more!  The wine tastings are accompanied by live music every Friday night from 5:30-7:30 PM.

Picchetti Winery

The Picchetti Winery Tasting Room is conveniently located in Al Tahoe, in the center of Tahoe South on the corner of San Jose and Hwy 50.  The tasting room offers complimentary wine tasting to Picchetti Wine Club Members or $10 sample flights for non-members.  If the weather is pleasant, the tasting room offers a quaint and idyllic backyard to relax in.  Bring a picnic and purchase a bottle of your favorite wine sample to enjoy with your lunch in their gorgeous lawn.   The tasting room is open daily from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Tahoe Ridge Winery and Marketplace

The Tahoe Ridge Winery and Marketplace is located just over the pass in picturesque town of Minden, NV, Tahoe Ridge Winery offers the perfect combination of high desert scenery and wine tasting!  Join them on May 17th for live music, great wine and fun at their Grape Stomp and Deck Opening Party or stop into the winery tasting room Tuesday through Sunday starting at 11:00 AM.  The winery is closed on Mondays and closes at 3:00 PM on Sundays.

Red Poets and Skyhawk Lane Tasting Room

Located in the Heavenly Village features fine wines and gourmet foods in a relaxed atmosphere.  You can order wine by the taste, flight, glass or bottle.  The Tasting Room is conveniently located near the Heavenly Village Cinemas and some of Tahoe’s best shopping, so stop in while perusing the racks or before catching a flick with your friends!

 

Adam.Tracey-8115

Travel Photography | Napa, CA

I’m catching up on old shelved projects and photos that were shoved to the bottom of my list during the busy season.  This list includes these stunning photos from Napa, CA from this past Fall.  I was there to photograph Adam and Tracey’s wedding on a private estate in the area and spent the extra days visiting with my friend Jessica and her girlfriends and eating pastries from Bouchon.  I’m anxious to get book for another Napa Destination Wedding so I have a reason to return!

Adam.Tracey.Select-47

Napa Destination Wedding Photography | Adam Plus Tracey

It is no secret that New Orleans is my favorite city in the world.

When I discovered that Adam and Tracey were from New Orleans, I basically did a second line through my house.

When I arrived on site and heard someone use the word “caddywhompus” I died and went to heaven.   “Do you know that I am the only person in California who has ever used that word until now!” I exclaimed.

Adam and Tracey had a small, intimate destination wedding surrounded by their friends and family members on a private estate in Napa and everything about it was exceedingly comfortable.   Adam’s brother officiated the ceremony.  Tracey and I share a love for Amazon Prime.  The cake was flown in from New Orleans: maple peanut caramel deliciousness from a baker that Adam once professed that he would marry he loved the cake so much.

Tracey and Adam were so at ease with each other.  We went gallivanting into the vines for photo opportunities and they laughed, giggled, and conversed as if I wasn’t even there.  It was the perfect venue for a perfect couple and an awesome family from Louisiana that made me feel right at home.

That is why I love New Orleans so much: because everything about her and her people instantly make me feel home.

Dear Adam and Tracey, thank you so much for choosing me to photograph your day!

I taste good

I hopped over to Los Angeles this week to rendezvous with my best mate after working at El Tour de Tucson.  We had a serious weekend of wine drinking, cooking and relaxing on our agenda.  The first stop on Saturday: LA’s Wine House, which had the biggest selection of regionally organized Italian Wines I’d ever seen.  They also had a ton of  harder to find favorites like Patz & Hall.  What caught my eye, however, was this gem:

“THAT’S MY NAME!” I yelled.  The sales agent unpacking wine on the aisle laughed and said I better buy it.  I was a little expensive – $30 on sale down from $55.  At least I know my worth is significant.

I couldn’t find a ton of information about Lindley Wines online.  Their website is still under construction.  Despite the fact that owners Jake and Frankie Lindley just started making wines (2011 was their first vintage), the wine was surprising smooth and quite delightful (I would expect me to be a bit more bitter and snappy).

End of story: I’d buy me again.  Or maybe they should just give me some.

WWW.2013.webres-7

Tahoe Event Photography | Women’s Wellness Weekend at Granlibakken

I had such an inspiring and educational weekend accompanied by wine and amazing food at the Granlibakken Resort’s Women’s Wellness Weekend.

The Women’s Wellness Weekend focuses on providing the fusion of Western practices with Eastern philosophy to provide women with information, inspiration, activities,  and great female company.  This is an awesome opportunity for any woman, but especially for those in the medical field.  For an additional $75, healthcare professionals can earn nine hours of CE credit at this amazing weekend getaway in the stunning Tahoe basin.

Granlibakken is a gorgeous resort.  Conveniently located in picturesque Tahoe City, CA, it offers tons of trails for hiking and mountain biking in the summer, a tree-top Adventure Park, a spa, and, in the winter, nordic skiing.  There is a plethora of rooms, units, condos and even large houses available for everyone from the single occupant to an entire family to come stay and enjoy the Tahoe area.

Although I was there to photograph the event, I learned so much from the presenters and I found more than a few of them to be fascinating.  Tahoe City based nutritionist, dietician, and triathlete Jill Whistler specializes in sports nutrition and really reinforced my own personal thoughts regarding nutrition and the best eating habits to fuel your body.  Nueropsychologist Suzanne Aberasturi, Ph.D provided us with a hilarious guide to how your brain develops and grows with age.  Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM is a family practitioner and the ice President of Medical Affairs and the Medical Director of Las Vegas Recovery Center.  His presentation on the disease of addiction was enthralling, surprising and peppered with humor.  I had the pleasure of dining with who is now going to be my new dermatologist: Dr. Jennifer Janiga.  She was a refreshing, gorgeous person who gave a fantastic presentation on healthy skin.

My favorite presentation of the weekend came from Joyce Mikal-Flynn, Ed. D, RN, FNP, MSN, a marathon runner and triathlete, who survived a sudden death in 1990 requiring 22 minutes of CPR.  She released a book, Turning Tragedy into Triumph MetaHabilitation: A Contemporary Model of Recovery which presents her system of rehabilitation.  Mrs. Mikal-Flynn spoke about what happens to people when they suffer life changing events and why some are able to turn their tragedies into triumph when others cannot.   I found her presentation to be particularly inspiring.  As an athlete myself, I wonder how I would react if faced with a similar circumstance.

In addition to the lectures and presentations, the weekend also offered various physical activities such as yoga, zumba and ki gong, as well as, social hours, lots of wine, a health expo, and shopping from local artisans.

The 2014 Women’s Wellness Weekend will be held on November 8 and 9, 2014.  If you register before the end of 2013, you can lock in this year’s super reasonable rate which includes all the Women’s Wellness Weekend Activities, one night lodging, hot buffet breakfasts, 2 lunches, and use of the pool/sauna/hot tub.

Wilson.Musial-5987

Destination Wedding | A Bachelorette Party in Temecula

I know I don’t have to tell you that one of my favorite things in the world is wine.

I’ll tell you again.

I love wine.

So, when I received the amazingly cute invitation for my best mate Haley’s Bachelorette Day in Temecula Wine Country, you know I was excited.  Haley’s Maid of Honor did an abfab job of planning a day for all of the women: a limo tour of wine country, complete with tastings at four vineyards, a delicious lunch at The Pinnacle at Falkner Winery, and just when we thought it couldn’t get better, dinner at Public House on Main Street in Old Town Temecula.

Haley

Our first stop on the tour was Briar Rose Winery, a vineyard with a very interesting story: in the 1970′s, a Disney employee responsible for the construction of Disneyland’s Fantasyland and Toon Town, Beldon Fields purchased land in Temecula and built replicas of Snow White’s cottage for his wife.  Flash forward to the 1990′s.  Les and Dorian Linkogle purchase the estate from the Fields, promising not to change the Snow White Cottages.  Today, the family grows Viognier, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling grapes and make wine.  Dorian, who is an absolute delight, greeted us personally at our limo door, ushered us inside and gave Haley a beautiful story about marriage, what will make it work and how a simple rose will help her get through the tough times.  It was a wonderfully memorable experience.

Our next stop was Falkner Winery, which sits atop a 1500 foot hill that offers unparalleled views of the grapevine filled valley below.  I really enjoyed their Viognier, one of my favorite grapes, which was done in a style a bit more similar to the dryer versions I am used to here in El Dorado County .  We also ate lunch at Falkner in their on site restaurant, The Pinnacle (menu here).  The reviews on Yelp are a bit all over the place, but I can say with confidence that I enjoyed my meal.  I would recommend the Apple and Walnut Baked Brie and the Seafood Portofino.

Our next stop was my favorite from the day: Leoness Cellars.  The wine was stunning and the service was spectacular.  They ushered us into a private tasting room where Dawn explained everything from how certain wines are made, how long they age, what the names of ridiculously large bottles are, how we should eat port and chocolates, to the history of the vineyard and it’s grapes.  We loved it and of all the wineries I visited this day, Leoness is the one I recommend the most.  My favorites included the Viognier, the Melange de Reves, the Meritage, the Syrah, and finally, to be consumed with truffles, the Cinsaut Desert Wine.

Our last stop on the winery tour was Wilson Creek Winery which won extra bonus points for having the owner’s dog wandering around.  Their list of wines is as extensive as their property and choosing just four to taste was difficult.

Last but certainly not least of the day was our dinner at Public House, whose menu was so extensive and amazing sounding that we all ordered WAY too much food.  Their mac’n’cheese changes EVERY DAY.  EVERY DAY.   They have MF’ing grilled romaine.  And they made me a real margarita.  Also, they have a kobe beef burger on the menu and it explicitly says that the chef will not cook it well done, so don’t ask.  Legit.

Want your own Temecula Wine Tasting Day?

RIDE:

  • There are plenty of limo and tour countries in Temecula.  For $105 a person, tastings included, 8 of us cruised around in style for 10 full hours thanks to Sunset Limo Wine Tours.  Our day included a complimentary bottle of champagne to get our morning started right and souvenir wine glasses.

EAT:

  • Holy gastro-pub Batman, I would travel to Temecula to eat at Public House.  Not kidding.  Their outdoor patio was perfectly comfortable and inviting, the beer and wine list inventive and local and their menu overwhelming in its awesomeness.
  • Falkner Winery’s Pinnacle Restaurant is a wise choice if you are spending all day tasting. I enjoyed both the meal and the view and while it’s no Public House, it’s an enjoyable place to eat.

DRINK:

  • Our day included tastings at Briar Rose Winery, Falkner, Leoness Cellars and Wilson Creek Vineyards, but you can incorporate any of the Temecula Valley Wine Growers Association Vineyards and Wineries into your choices for the day.  It’s almost like you get to choose your own adventure.  No, wait, it’s exactly like you get to choose your own adventure.